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Malawi businessman convicted for 2019 attempt to bribe judges

Malawians casting their ballots

Malawians casting their ballots

Malawi's High court has found a businessman guilty of attempting to bribe Constitutional court judges who were ruling on the disputed 2019 presidential election.

Thomson Mpinganjira, who owns a commercial bank in Malawi, was arrested in January 2020 by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), after the High court's chief justice, Andrew Nyirenda, reported he had attempted to bribe the judges.

Mpinganjira was accused of offering judges an unspecified amount of money so that a court case over the disputed 2019 presidential election would end in favor of then-president Peter Mutharika.

Mpinganjira had pleaded not guilty to six bribery-related charges. But High court Judge Dorothy DeGabriele, in her judgment Friday, said the court proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Mpinganjira wanted to bribe the five judges.

"The court found the accused person under count 1 and 2 for offering an advantage to Justice [Healey] Potani and Justice [Michael] Tembo who were public officers and for the benefit of that advantage to be shared amongst the judges, to induce the judges to make a decision in favor of the respondent. The accused person is hereby convicted accordingly," DeGabriele said.

Mpinganjira's lawyer, Tamando Chokotho, asked the court to consider giving his client noncustodial punishment, saying his client is a first offender and a responsible man.

Reyneck Matemba, Malawi's solicitor general, dismissed calls for the noncustodial sentence, saying the convict needs a maximum prison term to serve as a lesson to potential offenders.

"What the convict wanted to do, the offense which he has committed, is a very serious offense," Matemba said. "He wanted to defeat the course of justice in one of the most high-profile cases in this country, ever."

Following the conviction, DeGabriele revoked Mpinganjira's bail and remanded him to Chichiri Prison in Blantyre, where he will await his sentencing.

 

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